Victory came within a sniff for the Gunnedah Bulldogs in last weekend's top of the table clash against North Tamworth in Group 4 rugby league on Saturday night.
The Dogs’ first grade trailed by just two points at half-time only to succumb 42-28 by the final whistle.
Gunnedah coach Shane Rampling beamed with pride at his players’ resolve to claw back Norths’ early lead in the match.
“We went to sleep in that first half and were down 22-4,” Rampling said.
“We could have laid down and got a big flogging but the boys came back and got to half time 24-22.
“I think they got a lot of confidence out of that.”
The second half should have been as close as the opening passage of play if not for a few line decisions and crucial injuries which stunted the Bulldogs’ momentum.
"Unfortunately a few decisions went against us."Gunnedah coach Shane Rampling
“We came out in the second thinking if things go our way we could snatch a win,” he said.
“Unfortunately a few decisions went against us.
“We made a lot of mistakes, dropped ball and made a few bad decisions in attack which cost us a couple of tries but other than that, you can’t fault the effort.
“They gave it their all.
“We lost two of our forwards for long periods.
“Josh Riley only last 15 minutes and didn’t come back after a severe cork in his leg and Shane Blair hurt his back so didn’t play the second half.
“We were down to two guys on the bench in the second half which took its toll defensively and we didn’t get a lot of ball.
“It was a very physical game, we knew that was going to happen.
“Full credit to our boys they showed a lot of spirit to keep fighting to the end.”
The loss ends the Bulldogs’ undefeated, four-game winning streak this season and relegates them to second spot on the Cup competition leaderboard, two behind leaders Norths and two in front of West Lions.
“Norths have got the advantage on us now, they’ve got two points on us but we know we can match them and we’ve still got to play them twice,” Rampling said.
This weekend is a competition-wide bye for the long weekend before the Dogs tackle fledging Tamworth outfit, the Oxley Diggers the following week.
“We’ll take a lot of positives out of that (Norths) game, regroup and have the weekend off which gives us the opportunity to get a few more boys back for the Oxley game
“We should start to see our injuries slowly recover.
“The goal is to finish top-two and we’ve got to start with knocking Oxley off in two weeks time.”
In reserve grade, the Bulldogs were hammered 46-16 by Norths and the Bulldogs Ladies LeagueTag side also lost 30-4. Only the Gunnedah under-18s found success on the weekend and defeated Norths 19-12.